Eating Healthy {and Responsibly} on a Budget

• 08 January 2010

A subject that constantly arises in our home is that of eating well on a budget. After my husband and I read a recent article in Living and watched Food, Inc. together, that subject expanded to "how to eat well in a socially responsible way on a budget". This is a tricky thing to do unless shopping exclusively at Whole Foods is feasible. Here's how we're trying to make it happen:

1. meal plan...this saves $, time and lessens stress (read more about it here). Buy fresh produce to complement what you already have in your pantry to maximize resources.

2. shop's a pain, I know, to schlep to 3 different stores each week but where there's a will, there's a way. After meal-planning I stop first at Whole Foods to take advantage of the sales and the organic milk (this is the cheapest place to purchase organic milk, even over Costco). Shopping only the sales allows me to enjoy the tasty benefits of organic produce for the same price as conventional produce.

3. decide where to spend your money most efficiently...this month's Living gave an honest explanation about organic produce and I appreciated it immensely. This is particularly helpful for those who can't buy organic produce exclusively. One page highlighted the "Clean 15"...the foods with the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. According to the article, it's likely okay to buy fruits and vegetables on this list in the conventional section of your supermarket. Pineapple, broccoli (not the pre-packaged kind), watermelon, onions and tomatoes are all on the list (amongst others). See top left for more info. Also explained was the "Dirty Dozen"...the fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residue (kale, apples, grapes, peppers, strawberries, etc.). I've always wanted to know when it's most important to buy organic I know!

4. sign up for a a local farmer, buy local, get better produce, spend less. It's a win-win. We've been pleased with the vegetable CSA we've participated in for the past 3 years. And just this week we also signed up for a meat CSA through this local farm. Even though we are not huge meat eaters, we do enjoy it in moderation. It feels good to know it's coming from a farm who believes in treating its animals with respect. You can sign up for a CSA in your area here.

5. purchase only what you need...if the recipe calls for 4 slices of bacon, buy just four slices of bacon (vs. the large 12-16 slice package)...if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon turmeric, and it's not a recipe make often, head to a store that sells bulk spices and buy just that amount. I've been practicing this little strategy since grad school and it's quite a money-saver. Resisting the "wants" at the store and focusing on the "needs" is also cost-effective.

6. share resources with a a 50 pound bag of red potatoes a little excessive for your family of 3? Consider finding a friend in the same predicament and split the bag amongst your households. Don't need the entire 2+ pound package of wild salmon at Costco? Apply the same concept and split the package with a buddy.

7. grow a garden...lots of benefits with this one starting with stress-relief, accessible food, minimal costs, kid-activity and full-control over how it's grown. You don't have to be an amazing gardener to follow-through with this one--I can personally attest to this! All you need is perseverance and some basic instruction from a seasoned gardener or two. There is just no substitute for the chance to grab a fresh rosemary sprig outside your backdoor. If you live in an apartment, try growing a simple herb garden in your windowsill. No backyard required :)

Curious about Food, Inc.? Here's a clip. Alice Waters called it "The film I have always been waiting for". We viewed it recently on Netflix Watch Instantly.

images via Living


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